Public Speaking Courage

Public Speaking Courage – Do You Have It?

Business needs more public speaking courage. Do you have what it takes to challenge the status quo, stand out and be memorable when you speak?


Last week I had coffee with Karen, a local mortgage broker. She’s an upbeat, fun-loving individual who I met through networking and thought, “I need to know this person.”

As we chatted at Panera, I learned that in a previous work-life Karen owned a fitness business specializing in hip hop dance classes. She would travel around to various locations teaching small groups and had a blast doing it. “I love hip hop!” She told me.

As the conversation continued, I also learned that Karen had to give a short, 5-minute sales presentation during a networking event a few days after our coffee meeting.

“I want it to be fun and different,” she told me.

I asked her what she planned to talk about.

“Reverse mortgages, she said. “I want people to know they’re useful. They get such a bad rap!”

To Rap or Not to Rap

Public speaking courageMy mind instantly connected “rap” and “hip hop.” Yes, I know they are different, but still there was something there.

Rap, I repeated. Then I asked her if she’d be willing to do a short rap during the presentation. “You know,” I said, “a few lines followed by ‘that was a bad rap, huh? You know what else gets a bad rap? Reverse mortgages.’ Then you could tell a client story to illustrate your point.”

She sat for a moment before saying, “I love that idea!”

Karen ran with it. She sent me her draft, I made a few suggestions, and a few days later she delivered her talk. Lucky for me I got to see her in action.

She let her personality shine and displayed public speaking courage as she rapped and told her story. The audience laughed, clapped and most importantly (and I know this because I looked) paid attention.

Wouldn’t you pay attention to a woman rapping at a business networking event?

What This Means for You When Public Speaking

It does not mean that when you speak or present you have to rap.

However, is there a way that you can tap into your own public speaking courage when asked to sit on a panel, speak at a conference, present at a client, sales, staff or board meeting or tell a story at a fundraising or networking event?

Scrolling through LinkedIn just before writing this newsletter, I came across a post about courage from Brené Brown, popular researcher on shame and vulnerability out of Houston, TX.

She wrote:

“Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, the definition has changed and today courage is more synonymous with being heroic.

Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.

Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world that’s pretty extraordinary.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Brown on this one. And from my view we need more public speaking courage in business.

What Public Speaking Courage Might Look Like in Business

  • Rapping certainly put vulnerability on the line!
  • Singing. Earlier this week I gave a talk on Mindset in Business. To start the talk I sang a few lines from a Miley Cyrus song that were relevant to the topic. I love singing and take voice lessons. Putting myself out there like that felt vulnerable, courageous and fun.
  • To Stand Or Sit. Some of my clients present in small conference rooms around a table that seats maybe 8 to 10 people. They hate sitting. “Stand,” I suggest. And for them, in their work culture, that’s vulnerable and courageous.
  • Say yes. For some, saying YES to speaking, presenting, leadership is courageous. You definitely put your vulnerability on the line when you agree to speak up.

What Does Public Speaking Courage Look Like for YOU?

Not everyone sings, dances, or raps. And you don’t have to rap to stand out and get your message across, but you do need to have some public speaking courage. What are you willing to do that might feel uncomfortable (but not in a weird way) to get the results you want?

Think about…

Hobbies, adventures you’ve taken, perspectives and experiences you have that no one else does.

A variety of ways exist to show public speaking courage, challenge the status quo and be memorable.

And if done well, unlike reverse mortgages, you won’t get a bad rap.

Your voice matters. Keep shining.


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Insights for leaders who are tired of formal protocols stifling their personality and ideas.

Here we get at the heart of what it means to "be yourself" in any business setting.

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